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Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Offers advice for would-be science fiction writers, covering such topics as setting, plot, character, and dialogue, as well as the mechanics of grammar, tense, sentence structure, and paragraph transition.


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Offers advice for would-be science fiction writers, covering such topics as setting, plot, character, and dialogue, as well as the mechanics of grammar, tense, sentence structure, and paragraph transition.

30 review for Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Allan Walsh

    Worlds of Wonder – How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by David Gerrold is a non-fiction title for writers who are looking to learn about the craft of writing in the genres of science fiction and fantasy. The Cover: I really wasn’t sold on this cover. It didn’t really suggest the book was non-fiction, the picture didn’t really work for me, and I really didn’t like the font used on the title and author name. It made the book look less professional to me. If I took the text away from the cover a Worlds of Wonder – How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by David Gerrold is a non-fiction title for writers who are looking to learn about the craft of writing in the genres of science fiction and fantasy. The Cover: I really wasn’t sold on this cover. It didn’t really suggest the book was non-fiction, the picture didn’t really work for me, and I really didn’t like the font used on the title and author name. It made the book look less professional to me. If I took the text away from the cover all together, this could have been a sci-fi, horror, or thriller novel in my opinion. The Good Stuff: Wow! I thought the last book I read on the craft of writing was good, but this book blew me away. This has to be the best book for writers that I have read. David Gerrold really has a firm grip on the craft. I am the target audience for this book and it did its job, really hitting the mark for me. The chapters are succinct, no waffle, no filler, no repeating the same thing 3 times, just solid direct writing. The words run smoothly and make perfect sense to me as a writer and to top it all off, it was published in 2001. David Gerrold’s text is relevant today as much as it was back then and seems to be timeless. The Bad Stuff: I’m pretty sure I have covered all the bad stuff in the cover section. Overall, I found this book to be pretty amazing. If you can only afford to buy one book on writing this year I would recommend you make it this one. It is clear and concise, covers a wealth of information, provides some solid advice, and the writing is interesting. This one is getting a star making, writer creating 5 out of 5 golden bookmarks.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Anyta Sunday

    Def. 5 star contender. Excellent writing advice for fantasy and science fiction (and most lessons can be applied to any fiction). Now back to practice, practice, practice . . . ;)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Clio

    A few of the exercises in this book are good, and some of the advice is useful. Unfortunately, I disagreed with a lot of the advice (such as the idea that a character's transformation has to be tied to a conscious revelation about the nature of her/himself), and most of the useful advice was stuff I'd heard many times before. Often, David Gerrold's self-promotion would overshadow the actual advice. Almost all of the chapters included specific references to his works, and sometimes painfully long A few of the exercises in this book are good, and some of the advice is useful. Unfortunately, I disagreed with a lot of the advice (such as the idea that a character's transformation has to be tied to a conscious revelation about the nature of her/himself), and most of the useful advice was stuff I'd heard many times before. Often, David Gerrold's self-promotion would overshadow the actual advice. Almost all of the chapters included specific references to his works, and sometimes painfully long excerpts. The chapter on sex scenes consisted of about two pages of advice and nine pages out of one of Gerrold's books. True, I can learn a lot from reading fiction, but I read fiction every day. This is an advice book. I learned very little from it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    This is a really useful and enjoyable little book. Not perfect, but I find books on writing to be much of a muchness. Depending on where you are on the curve, there will be a lot that you've read before, and usually a few really thought provoking new ideas, but in the end, as Gerrold says here, these books are just coaches... You learn to write by writing, and finishing your projects. I found this book to be a good read, well written, though Gerrold tends to only quote himself (and when it comes This is a really useful and enjoyable little book. Not perfect, but I find books on writing to be much of a muchness. Depending on where you are on the curve, there will be a lot that you've read before, and usually a few really thought provoking new ideas, but in the end, as Gerrold says here, these books are just coaches... You learn to write by writing, and finishing your projects. I found this book to be a good read, well written, though Gerrold tends to only quote himself (and when it comes down to it, this is his show, so as he is found of saying, Dig or split) but part of my interest in reading this is insight to HIS process, so I enjoy those parts as well.

  5. 4 out of 5

    K.M. Weiland

    Snappy, entertaining, and insightful. Gerrold covers the expected basics (on both fiction in general and spec in particular), while managing to throw in some inspiring originalities.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    This book offers some useful practices for writers to employ, but suffers from poor organization and coherence. Gerrold also could have exercised more restraint in excerpting his own work to present as examples; the worst of this is a section devoted to a ten-page dialogue from one of Gerrold's works-in-progress. What's useful about it: discussions of structure, metric prose, style, and professional discipline. These sections are rather short and make up a small portion of the book. What's proble This book offers some useful practices for writers to employ, but suffers from poor organization and coherence. Gerrold also could have exercised more restraint in excerpting his own work to present as examples; the worst of this is a section devoted to a ten-page dialogue from one of Gerrold's works-in-progress. What's useful about it: discussions of structure, metric prose, style, and professional discipline. These sections are rather short and make up a small portion of the book. What's problematic: Gerrold subscribes to a fairly rigorous world-building philosophy for science fiction. While I admire his technical approach to creating science-fiction milieus, I felt that his approach to fantasy lacked depth and imagination. Beyond that, Gerrold offers the standard fare for these types of books: show, don't tell; write a lot.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    Worlds Of Wonder Worlds Of Wonder is a very useful book for writers wishing to explore science fiction and fantasy. David Gerrlod manages to keep this book fun and informative. I love the way David starts this book, a tribute to his college professor. “He was a bleary eyed, red-nosed, overstuffed, walking elbow wrinkle of a human being.” How’s that for descriptive writing? Too many adjectives you say? I think it paints a clear picture of his professor and anti-hero. David claims that five words h Worlds Of Wonder Worlds Of Wonder is a very useful book for writers wishing to explore science fiction and fantasy. David Gerrlod manages to keep this book fun and informative. I love the way David starts this book, a tribute to his college professor. “He was a bleary eyed, red-nosed, overstuffed, walking elbow wrinkle of a human being.” How’s that for descriptive writing? Too many adjectives you say? I think it paints a clear picture of his professor and anti-hero. David claims that five words his professor spoke to him changed his life. “You’ll never be any good.” I guess his professor was wrong. Worlds Of Wonder is so informative that I do not have time to cover all the information offered in this book, so I will try to condense and most likely butcher the advise this author offers. Let me start by naming a few chapters from this novel: The Literature Of Imagination, Inventing Wonder, If-The Most Powerful Word, Science, Science Fiction, … and Fantasy, What Is A Story, A Story Is, Crises and Challenges, and so forth. Each chapter contains insights to the given title and some chapters offer helpful writing exercises. My favorite chapter were about world building and building aliens, you can only imagine the fun these chapters contained. Dr. Jack Cohen a British biologist is given credit for working with many authors including David Gerrold, so the information in these chapters is quite informative. These simple words from David Gerrold have stuck with me long after reading the book. “The literature of the fantastic is about awakening the feeling of awe- and exercising it.” This is a very good book and a must read for writers of every level. I wish I had the time and energy to explore this book in depth, but that would take much too long.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Massimo Marino

    I liked the book all over, and there are pearls for everyone in most pages. What struck me is that Gerrold advices are very practical and take you hand to hand on what is important and essential about writing and storytelling. One, among the ones he lists at the end says: "You can't write what you don't know. If you don't know, find out" Readers want to immerse themselves in the world—of wonder—created by the writer, and it is to be credible, and shown by the author as if he comes from there, he has I liked the book all over, and there are pearls for everyone in most pages. What struck me is that Gerrold advices are very practical and take you hand to hand on what is important and essential about writing and storytelling. One, among the ones he lists at the end says: "You can't write what you don't know. If you don't know, find out" Readers want to immerse themselves in the world—of wonder—created by the writer, and it is to be credible, and shown by the author as if he comes from there, he has been there, he felt, smelled the air, tasted the dust of that world. Gerrold also discusses distinctions and communications. I thought of Mercury-Hermes, god of communication, mediations, and announcements, i.e., revelations. Mercury represents the pricipium individuationis. With his winged feet, he travels fast and agile to establish relationships and connections between gods and men, between universal laws and each individual story. When the communication works and the connection is established, the relationship works. The essential nature of writing is communication and sharing, we transmit ideas, thoughts, feelings and emotions. And we have to know them, first.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    this is a solid 3, because it has tons of great ideas and pointers for sf/fantasy writers. if you are seriously considering writing such a book, make sure you read this. has some great genre-specific advice and pitfalls to watch out for. as someone with a WIP, i appreciated the few solid take-aways. as far as general advice is concerned, this is just ok. sure, it has some good writing advice, but a lot of it felt cliche, so to speak. predictable. another minor crit: i also would've liked more ex this is a solid 3, because it has tons of great ideas and pointers for sf/fantasy writers. if you are seriously considering writing such a book, make sure you read this. has some great genre-specific advice and pitfalls to watch out for. as someone with a WIP, i appreciated the few solid take-aways. as far as general advice is concerned, this is just ok. sure, it has some good writing advice, but a lot of it felt cliche, so to speak. predictable. another minor crit: i also would've liked more exercises. there were only two or three, and for a genre-specific book, more would've been nice. finally, this book felt self-indulgent, and i don't mean my reading it. gerrold quotes from himself SO liberally and worse, at length, that i ended up skimming quite a bit. especially painful for the love/sex scenes. i suppose the good part about quoting yourself is you don't have to get permissions (or they're easier to negotiate), but...i don't know, i didn't feel like these were all good candidates.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    I think beginning writers would get the most use from this book. (I believe Gerrold intended the book as a beginner’s guide, and as such, it succeeded.) Though I did pull out a few pieces of useful information, most of it was advice I’d heard many times before. Personally, I wanted more analysis of examples. When Gerrold gives examples of writing, he will sum it all by saying essentially, “See how that worked?” I want to pull it all apart and look more closely. Gerrold is a distinguished writer in I think beginning writers would get the most use from this book. (I believe Gerrold intended the book as a beginner’s guide, and as such, it succeeded.) Though I did pull out a few pieces of useful information, most of it was advice I’d heard many times before. Personally, I wanted more analysis of examples. When Gerrold gives examples of writing, he will sum it all by saying essentially, “See how that worked?” I want to pull it all apart and look more closely. Gerrold is a distinguished writer in the field, and as such, he carries plenty of firm opinions, which might put off some readers. Gerrold does admit to his own vulnerable moments as a writer, which brings him off of that pedestal a little bit, but it still felt like he was speaking from on high. Even so, I didn’t feel condescended to. There is quite a bit of support to be found, if the reader is willing to have a writer’s discipline. I did have to smile at the references to word processing technology, even with the book being written in 2001. Things have definitely gotten more efficient since then.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    This book had a few good tidbits in it, but overall, it wasn't worth the time. While it claims to be about both science fiction and fantasy, it really focuses on science fiction. There aren't many writing exercises and towards the end the advice became very generic. The sex and love scene chapters were a waste. The majority of those chapters consist of the author's own scenes and nothing on how to create them. Throughout the book, the author is very heavy handed with his own work. It became a bi This book had a few good tidbits in it, but overall, it wasn't worth the time. While it claims to be about both science fiction and fantasy, it really focuses on science fiction. There aren't many writing exercises and towards the end the advice became very generic. The sex and love scene chapters were a waste. The majority of those chapters consist of the author's own scenes and nothing on how to create them. Throughout the book, the author is very heavy handed with his own work. It became a bit much by the end.

  12. 5 out of 5

    RB

    I wish that I had found this book years ago! Extremely inspirational and insightful, not only in regards to writing in the fantasy/sci-fi genre, but writing in general. A recommended read for anyone who aspires to become an author or "just" has an interest in writing.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cherise

    I found this book to be quite helpful. The advice it included went beyond the details and got to the heart of things. Gerrold doesn't just talk about the general advice that everyone eventually finds out and repeats. He includes interesting techniques that other writers have used that have been successful, and he sometimes poses questions that he leaves open to thought. Probably the most wonderful thing about this book is that it's obvious that Gerrold loves his craft. His passion is infectious, I found this book to be quite helpful. The advice it included went beyond the details and got to the heart of things. Gerrold doesn't just talk about the general advice that everyone eventually finds out and repeats. He includes interesting techniques that other writers have used that have been successful, and he sometimes poses questions that he leaves open to thought. Probably the most wonderful thing about this book is that it's obvious that Gerrold loves his craft. His passion is infectious, and you can tell that the central reason of why he does what he does is never far from his mind. I definitely recommend this book for anyone who wants to write science fiction or fantasy. (If you don't have an interest in regulating what goes into your mind, you can stop reading this review here. I am a Christian teenager and I care about these things, so no review of mine is complete without warnings.) Clean-o-meter: I can't believe how hard it is to find a book of good writing advice that is appropriate for a 14-year-old to read. Following the trend, the book started out good but about a third of the way through sexual references appeared and steadily increased. There was a whole chapter on writing sex scenes that I skipped. (Mostly it was, "Here, let me show you what I did.") Gerrold did get some good points on my scale, though, because while there was some cussing, it wasn't bad cussing.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Stacy

    I haven't read many writing books (I'm beginning to read more) but nothing turns me off quicker than an author that tries to sound smarter than me or puffs themselves up in their book. Yes - its helpful to know your credentials and Yes - self promotion is important in this business, but there are ways to "toot your own horn" without coming off as arrogant. (and if you really are a good writer you should know how to do that.) So I was very happy when the first line in this book was - "The very bes I haven't read many writing books (I'm beginning to read more) but nothing turns me off quicker than an author that tries to sound smarter than me or puffs themselves up in their book. Yes - its helpful to know your credentials and Yes - self promotion is important in this business, but there are ways to "toot your own horn" without coming off as arrogant. (and if you really are a good writer you should know how to do that.) So I was very happy when the first line in this book was - "The very best writing instructor I ever had was an incompetent." I knew immediately that I would enjoy reading this book. The author doesn't take himself too seriously, but at the same time shares valuable insight to writing science fiction and fantasy novels - though I would argue much of his advice would help with all genre's of fiction. The setup and flow of this book is also good - the chapters are short enough to keep your attention with out being so long as to let your mind wander...well, not wander too far. After all, if your reading about writing you generally have an idea in your head and wandering minds just come with the job description. I would recommend this book to any would-be writer.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dan'l Danehy-oakes

    I enjoy books on writing, because I enjoy writing. (No, really.) A lot of how I judge a book of writing is whether the book has something to say to me that I can incorporate into my own practice. Smoothly written, this is as much a book about how Gerrold thinks about writing as it is about writing-as-such; but after a reasonably long and reasonably successful career (the book was first published in 2001, so the career is seventeen or eighteen years longer now), how he thinks about writing is reas I enjoy books on writing, because I enjoy writing. (No, really.) A lot of how I judge a book of writing is whether the book has something to say to me that I can incorporate into my own practice. Smoothly written, this is as much a book about how Gerrold thinks about writing as it is about writing-as-such; but after a reasonably long and reasonably successful career (the book was first published in 2001, so the career is seventeen or eighteen years longer now), how he thinks about writing is reasonably interesting .... and (to me) useful. _Worlds of Wonder_ offered me a number of new tools and insights.Perhaps the most important, to me, is this: Some years ago I read a piece by Ursula K. Le Guin in which she said that one of the signs of a good paragraph is that it propels you forward, makes you want to read the next one. Gerrold offers some advice, which I can usefully apply, on how a paragraph can do this. Gerrold is an enthusiastic and experienced (he teaches writing at Pepperdine) teacher, and this is a good addition to my library of writing books.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Eric Juneau

    It's hard to say whether I should recommend this one or not. On one hand, I was looking for science fiction and fantasy specific advice, and this doesn't have it. It's really just another book on writing, which I've read enough of. There wasn't much here I didn't already know. On the other hand, I like Gerrold's style of writing. This was definitely better than Bird by Bird and comparable to "On Writing" by Stephen King. He makes the book fun to read. On the other other hand, the examples that Ger It's hard to say whether I should recommend this one or not. On one hand, I was looking for science fiction and fantasy specific advice, and this doesn't have it. It's really just another book on writing, which I've read enough of. There wasn't much here I didn't already know. On the other hand, I like Gerrold's style of writing. This was definitely better than Bird by Bird and comparable to "On Writing" by Stephen King. He makes the book fun to read. On the other other hand, the examples that Gerrold cites are all his own works. And they are looooong examples. At a certain point, it makes me wonder whether this volume was as self-promotional as it was self-help.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    For some odd reason, I picked up this book and started to read it although I really have little desire to write a book, or the talent necessary to do so. But David Gerrold's writing is inherently interesting, and I breezed through this book in several hours. It was ok, like I said, interesting - but more interesting from a standpoint of knowing the thoughts that go through his head as he writes, rather than useful information on how someone else could write Science Fiction. Most of the informatio For some odd reason, I picked up this book and started to read it although I really have little desire to write a book, or the talent necessary to do so. But David Gerrold's writing is inherently interesting, and I breezed through this book in several hours. It was ok, like I said, interesting - but more interesting from a standpoint of knowing the thoughts that go through his head as he writes, rather than useful information on how someone else could write Science Fiction. Most of the information might be interesting to someone that has just started out writing, but anyone that has given more than two thoughts about it probably won't find the book all that useful.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Some interesting new ideas or ways of looking at writing. But a lot of it is a rehash of things you already know if you read or write science fiction and fantasy extensively. Or if you've read other books about writing science fiction and fantasy. World-building, etc. He also uses a fair amount of excerpts from his own writing. Which is useful in a way, but also annoying, especially when the excerpt goes on and on, as one sex/love scene example does. Though I'll admit he did say some things about Some interesting new ideas or ways of looking at writing. But a lot of it is a rehash of things you already know if you read or write science fiction and fantasy extensively. Or if you've read other books about writing science fiction and fantasy. World-building, etc. He also uses a fair amount of excerpts from his own writing. Which is useful in a way, but also annoying, especially when the excerpt goes on and on, as one sex/love scene example does. Though I'll admit he did say some things about some of his books that intrigued me. I really should read some more of his novels.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lynzie

    I love to read about writing. I picked this up at the library, and honestly, it's very good. My complaint is that I picked it up specifically for help with fantasy writing, and a huge majority of it is dedicated solely to science fiction. If the author wanted to write a book on science fiction writing, he should have! I get the feeling his editor told him to stick some fantasy chapters in there just to get more people to buy it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Elisabeth

    Gerrold has a very conversational voice, and is very easy to read. His chapters are short, to the point, and informative. (Except, for some reason, the chapters on writing sex and love scenes: these are long, dull examples without direction.) A quick read, it will get the newbie off to a good start. Though it might not offer much to the more seasoned student, Gerrold's personal experience and quirky point of view are enjoyable enough to make it worthwhile.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dipa Sanatani

    Good book with lots of practical advice, but I feel it tried my patience a little bit. I've read several other 'how to write' books, and there just wasn't anything particularly groundbreaking or innovative in this book. I think it's more of a 'how to write fiction' book as opposed to 'how to write science fiction and fantasy'. A good starting point if you're writing fiction, but I guess I was expecting a little more content that specifically relates to science fiction and fantasy.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Shayna Marks

    This may be one of the best books on writing fiction I have ever read. I don't even write science fiction or fantasy, but the majority of the advice and guidance about the craft are still applicable to any kind of fiction. Gerrold goes deep and explains the technicalities and mechanics behind language and storytelling as a craft. It is a unique guide to writing, and one I would recommend to any writer of fiction.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Schwarz

    For the kind of writing I'm trying to do this book is definitely worth checking out. Much of the second half of the book is filled with pretty generic writing advice and there are some lengthy quotes of his own work, which isn't much more than filler and self-promotion. But the first few chapters, and for me especially, the chapter on how fantasy works, was worth the price of admission.

  24. 5 out of 5

    C.A.

    A really good resource for those wanting to write science fiction. David Gerrold presents the information in an informal way that still manages to be helpful in pursuing this genre. Besides, how can you dislike the man who wrote the famous "The Trouble with Tribbles" episode of the original Star Trek?

  25. 4 out of 5

    M.L. Forman

    A good book with some very good advice. Some times I didn't really get what Gerrold was talking about, or I thought he was over explaining things that were obvious. The best bit of advice I found in this book... If you want to be a writer there are two things you need to do. Read a lot, and write a lot. Yes, that sounds so simple, but it is so true.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This was probably the best book about writing I've read so far. I would highly recommend it for writers of any genre. David not only changed the way I look at writing, but he also changed the way I look at myself. After reading this book, I'm going to re-write pretty much everything I've done for my current novel so far. But that's okay, I was only a quarter of the way through anyway!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Haengbok92

    This is the book that got me back into writing just after I graduated college and I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. It has lots of great information and encouragement for science fiction and fantasy writers, and is filled with excellent examples and excercises. A win!

  28. 5 out of 5

    James

    Excellent and well organized, with dozens of short chapters addressing specific aspects of writing (science fiction and fantasy in particular, but a lot of it applies to all fiction.) A worthwhile book for any aspiring or established writer of fiction; it will come in handy.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    I picked this up at my brother's house this evening and read it in one sitting--skipping a couple of chapters that would only be important to someone writing a trashy novel. If fractional stars were an option, I'd give it 2.5.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    Excellent, encouraging source for up-and-coming speculative fiction authors. An enjoyable and practical read. I'm confident I will reference it throughout my career, especially when I hit a roadblock or have lost my confidence as a writer.

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